Solar energy is power that is harnessed from the sun. This energy can be used as a heat source, called solar thermal, or as a power source, called solar electric. The sun's supply of energy can be converted directly or indirectly into useable forms of energy that can be used for many different commercial and industrial applications including heating water, space heating for buildings, drying agricultural products and generating electricity.
Solar heating, also called solar thermal, harnesses the sun's energy which can be used to produce hot water for commercial and industrial applications including space heating, process heating and pool heating. Most solar thermal applications are relatively low temperature, from 80°F for pool heating to 160°F for water heating. However, concentrating solar thermal can be used for higher temperature applications. Businesses with high hot-water demands, such as the following, may be good candidates for solar thermal heating:
Solar electric, also referred to as photovoltaic or PV, is the sun's energy converted into electricity. Photovoltaic material, most often highly-purified silicon housed in PV arrays, converts sunlight directly into electricity. Photovoltaics are used in a wide range of products, from small consumer items, such as calculators and watches, to large commercial solar electric systems. Many commercial and industrial buildings are excellent candidates for solar electric due to their large, flat roofs that maintain an unobstructed supply of sunlight. Some examples of commercial and industrial PV applications follow:
Energy from the sun is free and the supply is unlimited. However, capturing and utilizing this free energy does have associated costs; specifically installing the equipment needed to harness the energy. In general, the cost for a commercial PV system is approximately $2.00 - $2.50 per watt of power for a large system and $3.00 per watt for a small system. Therefore, a large, 100kW system, would cost approximately $250,000 to install. Go here to learn more on system pricing.
Builders and developers around the nation are finding that energy-efficient and solar houses sell faster than conventional homes. Federal tax credits and improved technologies, such as new building-integrated solar technologies, make it an excellent time to pursue solar.
Although the initial investment may seem prohibitive, incentives in the form of tax credits and low-interest loans can help offset the costs. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 created tax deduction allowances of $0.60/ sq ft for commercial buildings with solar hot water systems and increased the business solar investment tax credit to 30 percent.
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